Fashion Mentorship & The East African Fashion Community
LDJ Productions is a technical production, creative services and event management company that produces large-scale events globally. The agency has been producing New York Fashion Week for several years and is responsible for executing the vision and operations of the biannual event. We are known for our expert eye for details necessary when executing a show that is covered by thousands of cameras and scrutinized by millions of people around the world.
In 2009, LDJ CEO and PFF Founder, Laurie DeJong was honored to receive an award from Enterprising Women for the rapid growth of LDJ Productions. It was there that she listened to Terry Neese speak about the program PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS, which connects entrepreneurs in the US with entrepreneurs in Rwanda and Afghanistan. She was inspired by the work of this great organization and instantly knew she wanted to get involved. It was through this chance meeting that Laurie began mentoring Rwanda fashion designer, Colombe Ituze Ndutiye. This was the beginning of a long lasting relationship with the East African Fashion Industry.
Colombe had just started a partnership with a small group of people who were trying to organize a fashion week in Kigali. It was then that Laurie had the realization of just how simple it would be to share her company’s experiences - having produced Fashion Week for so many years in NY - with the team on the ground in Kigali. New York Fashion Week generates almost $900 million for the greater metropolitan area, which is more than the U.S. Open, NYC Marathon or 2014 Super Bowl. If Fashion Week in a developing nation could bring in even a fraction of this amount, it could substantially impact the economy by creating jobs and other sustainable business opportunities.
Six week later, two of our employees from LDJ were on a plane to Rwanda. After travelling to Africa for the first Fashion Week, we were inspired and committed. We began coming up with ideas of how LDJ could mobilize and take this to the next level. As of this we have assisted in the growth of the fashion and related industries in both Rwanda and Uganda and worked with aspiring entrepreneurs in five East African countries through mentorship, sharing of knowledge and technical training.
As we began to involve more people word spread throughout the industry about our programs. This led to contractors, vendors and even clients getting involved by providing resources, or in some cases, even joining on a trip to share their expertise and best practices. We have formed many wonderful relationships based on mutual respect and love for the business, have expanded the program to include a one-on-one mentorship program, and have given some the opportunity to work with us in New York during Fashion Week.
With the support of LDJ Productions, PFF has continued to support the fashion industry in East Africa and has worked with designers from 7 countries, providing mentorship and sharing best practices.
After an extensive needs assessment, we have learned that technical training classes are the biggest need in the region. We recently completed a one-week pattern making class at Gahaya Links for top tailors and designers in the region and are working towards more frequent training classes in 2016 and 2017. Those trained have committed to passing on what they learned to others on the ground, with our goal being to assist with establishing a base of technical experts in the region. Additional frequent trainings are needed and PFF is planning to host a draping class in the fall. PFF is currently looking for an individual(s) who is willing to do a PFF residency to conduct a multi week training class in pattern making and draping.
Fashion weeks in both Kampala and Kigali are planned for October 2016, with a host of events occurring in each city: business skill training, technical training, pop-up shops, etc.
In May of 2016 Laurie DeJong represented Rwanda in a panel about the International Fashion Market at the World Economic Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. PFF is working with a group of Rwanda based designers on the formation of their own fashion council.
PFF is currently looking for support and partners to assist with the following:
- A second training class in Pattern Draping for twenty students - class fee, supplies, venue and expenses total $100 per student
- Sponsorship for both Kigali and Kampala Fashion Week - sponsorships start at $1,000.
- Recruiting an expert pattern maker to complete a six-month residency in Kigali to continue pattern-making classes - expenses are approximately $2,500.
- Expenses to assist with travel for two designers to intern with LDJ Productions during New York Fashion Week - approximately $2,500 per person.